The opening race of the 2018 Grand Prix season in Melbourne has already given GP bettors some drama, with Mercedes' safety car computer glitch costing Lewis Hamilton (and plenty of bettors who backed him) race victory – and handing it to Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel. While the two title protagonists look set to do battle again at Bahrain's Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit on 8 April 2018, the rejuvenated Kimi Räikkönen again has strong appeal at value odds.
In recent years, the Bahrain Grand Prix has been dominated by Vettel and Hamilton – with the former taking three races and the latter two. Given the overall form, cars and starts to the season made by the pair, there's unsurprisingly little value available for Formula 1 betting enthusiasts at Sakhir on 8 April.
Top betting sites online have odds of 10/11 on Hamilton and 3/1 on Vettel to win. Splitting the pair is tough and the prices don't offer much. Indeed, Hamilton was seemingly in full control in Australia until the safety car fiasco changed the race.
The car issues handed it to Vettel – but the latter has a slight edge over Hamilton around Bahrain's hairpinned track. All this means it could make betting sense to swerve the pair and concentrate on Kimi Räikkönen, who continues to be highly priced by some fresh-faced internet bookies.
Since its first running in 2004, Kimi Räikkönen is yet to win the Bahrain Grand Prix, but his podium finishes show race aptitude:
|Year||1st||2nd||3rd||2017||Vettel (Ferrari)||Hamilton (Mercedes)||Bottas (Mercedes)||2016||Rosberg (Mercedes)||Räikkönen (Ferrari)||Hamilton (Mercedes)||2015||Hamilton (Mercedes)||Räikkönen (Ferrari)||Rosberg (Mercedes)||2014||Hamilton (Mercedes)||Rosberg (Mercedes)||Perez (Force India)||2013||Vettel (Red Bull)||Räikkönen (Ferrari)||Grosjean (Lotus)||2012||Vettel (Red Bull)||Räikkönen (Ferrari)||Grosjean (Lotus)|
Räikkönen ended last season with some positive expectations for 2018 and he's now finished third in four of the last five Grand Prix races. While he may play second fiddle to Vettel, both Ferrari cars are supreme machines capable of winning races and certainly consistently placing.
Even with a winless streak since Australia in 2013, his consistent podium form is starting to suggest that he could be ready to rewrite that statistic and, at 16/1, he's worth supporting.
Räikkönen's backers in the fastest lap market in the season's opener in Melbourne went agonizingly close to collecting with his 1:26.373 on lap 57, only beaten by Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull, which clocked 1:25.945 on lap 54. That made the Finn faster than Hamilton and Vettel, who recorded the third and fourth fastest times:
It makes backing Räikkönen for fastest lap with Betfair interesting again, while also illustrating the merits of his car's performance; it's as quick as anything in the Championship and capable of winning races, particularly this one.
Outside the top of the market, Grand Prix betting offers some notorious big odds, something with scope for value if an edge can be identified. Indeed, beyond the 16-1 available for Kimi Räikkönen, the odds on another driver winning are all over 200-1.
It's always a long shot to be confident about any drivers winning a race at such big odds, Fernando Alonso's Bahrain tyre strategy is an interesting move by his McLaren team and one to watch out on the track.
The Spaniard makes some speculative each way appeal at 200-1 with bookies and having finished in fifth position in the Australian Grand Prix, the team are confident that there's scope for podium optimism ahead of the race in Bahrain.
Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne have both selected nine sets of supersoft tyres, three sets of soft and only one medium set – marking them out as a team whose strategy will be focused on trying to gain across the track's tight hairpin sections.
Alonso is also no stranger to success in Bahrain, having twice won it as a Renault driver (2005 and 2006) and once with Ferrari (2010) – a win figure only matched by Vettel. Clearly, the car at his disposal is unlikely to be a patch on those he previously drove here to victory, but early indications from the McLaren camp do suggest the team can push for some podium finishes this season.
Ultimately, the bookies' focus remains on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel as ever. But it's worth taking a chance on backing Kimi Räikkönen at 16/1 each way in the Bahrain Grand Prix with NetBet.
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